Hong Kong’s newly-appointed number two official – John Lee – has been handed another key position in the administration of the city with him being installed as head of a powerful committee which will vet candidates for upcoming elections.
Speaking at her weekly press conference on Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Chief Secretary Lee – who was promoted from his role as the city’s security minister less than two weeks ago – will lead a new government body for reviewing the eligibility of poll hopefuls.
The committee will consist of three official members nominated by Lam, including the new Secretary for Security and former police chief Chris Tang, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang and Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui.
Three pro-Beijing figures – ex-justice minister Elsie Leung, former Legislative Council (LegCo) president Rita Fan and former president of the Chinese University Lawrence Lau Juen-yee – will also join the committee as non-official members.
“The three non-official members totally fulfilled the requirements of being loyal to the country, responsible to Hong Kong and have a sense of accountability… I am very thankful that they accepted my invitation…” Lam said.
The panel is part of a new multilayer screening mechanism imposed on candidates who want to vie for a seat on the Election Committee, the LegCo, or run to become the chief executive. It was introduced in Hong Kong in May through a Beijing-steered electoral overhaul, which aimed to ensure only patriots hold power in the semi-autonomous region.
The committee will give a green light to would-be candidates if they fulfil the requirements of bearing allegiance to the HKSAR, vowing to uphold the Basic Law and abiding by the Beijing-enacted national security law.
Its decision will be based on a national security police check and a recommendation by the Committee for Safeguarding National Security, currently chaired by Lam, with the China Liaison Office director Luo Huining as the adviser.
The electoral revamp, while described as a reform to plug loopholes by the authorities, was criticised by local elections experts as a “major regression in democracy.”
Lam said on Tuesday that around 9,300 people – which accounted for more than 90 per cent of the 10,000 estimated eligible voters – applied to become voters in the Election Committee election scheduled for September 19.
The city’s leader hailed the application figure as proof that voters supported the “broad representation” and “balanced participation” under the revamped electoral system. The 1,500-member Election Committee – now packed with Beijing allies – has gained sweeping powers to nominate candidates to stand in the legislative poll and elect 40 of them into the legislature.
Lam added she will issue the last annual policy address in her term on October 6. The government will organise around 30 public consultation sessions to meet representatives from different sectors and lawmakers from different parties.
“I will also discuss with citizens their expectations on governance,” she said.